Safeguarding subsea ecosystems and improving seabed biodiversity are hot topics in the arena of offshore energy industrialisation.

Solutions to nurture new marine flora and fauna on and around infrastructure are sought by developers and operators who must complete an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Manufacturing custom-made artificial reefs that mimic natural reef formations where species can settle, grow and breed, and integrating them into crucial scour prevention measures to protect cables and foundations, is one solution developed by Exo Engineering.

Its eco-friendly GeoBlock® technology turns dredged sediment and leftovers from quarrying and construction into new habitat-enhancing products to boost the health and biodiversity of coastal and marine environments.

Its ExoReefs are created with different textured surfaces to replicate natural habitats for animals, plants, fish and algae.

Dynamics of holes and crevices are tailor-made to offer shelter for specific mobile marine life.

Each ExoReef can contain as much as 90% recycled materials, cutting its lifetime carbon emissions compared to regular concrete.

2024 is a big year for Exo Engineering’s growing team as it scales up its eco-engineering solutions for marine environments.

Based at the University of East Anglia’s Enterprise Centre in Norwich, it manufactures its products a few miles away to the west of the city.

Currently, ExoReefs are being tested in the Celtic Sea off the Pembrokeshire Coast for floating offshore windfarms. The 18-month monitoring pilot at the Marine Energy Test Area (META) is its biggest deployment. More than 16 tonnes of ecologically engineered units are in the test area, with five different concepts and tried and tested units.

Another project this year targets the IJmuiden Ver offshore wind project off the Netherlands, with reefs specifically designed as habitats for Atlantic cod and Ross worm.

Operations manager Will Melhuish, a graduate of the University of East Anglia who returned to Norwich after his master’s degree in marine environmental protection at Bangor University, said: “Our approach is focused on the bespoke design of the reef units because each project has its own engineering considerations, regulations and different target species.

“At IJmuiden, we have a specific species mandate to target Atlantic cod in the design, so the reefs have features and habitat preferences to attract cod.

“Designed to be deployed en masse and to fit in with scheduled installation and maintenance visits, the ExoReefs can be placed on existing developments on top of already-installed seabed and infrastructure scour protection.

“From an operator’s point of view, they fit the clean credentials and provide net gain.”

Ambitions are for ExoReefs to be used on a large scale around the UK, Europe, Taiwan, the US and Canada.